Monday, February 11, 2013

Buying a used car? Here's a way to check if it's stolen or salvaged.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau, an anti-fraud group made up of hundreds of insurance companies, car rental companies, auto auctions, etc., runs a free online site where you can check to see if the car you're about to buy has been reported as stolen or salvaged.

It's called "VINCheck." You type in the vehicle identification number. On most modern cars, the VIN is usually a long combination of numbers and letters on a plate or tag at the front of the dashboard. It's easily read from outside, through the windshield.

VINCheck will tell you if the vehicle has been reported as stolen and unrecovered, or if it has been reported as a salvage vehicle, by participating NICB members.

A maximum of five searches are allowed from each IP address per 24-hour period.

"My homeowners insurer canceled me because I made two water claims in three years. Is that legal?"

Yes, it often is. Insurers are required to send you a written, advance notice listing the reason why they're canceling your coverage, but they're not prohibited from canceling (or not renewing) coverage due to claims.

What can you do? Well, you can talk to your agent, who may be able to work with the insurer to keep your coverage, albeit possibly with some changes.

The insurer might want you to take on a higher deductible, for example, or might want a home inspection report by an outside consultant.

If it's the latter, they'll likely be paying particular attention to the overall condition and care of the home and condition of the utilities.

If you like your insurer, it's worth at least asking the question.

Also, if you have questons like this and you live in Washington state, we're happy to contact your insurance company on your behalf and ask for an explanation of their decision. You can file a complaint online 24/7 or give our consumer advocacy staff a call at 1-800-562-6900.